In the Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge was visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. With apologies to Dickens, here are the ghosts in our A Congress Carol.
Join us on the journey as we play Marley…
Ghost of Christmas Past shows us how things used to be: semi-functioning, there were actual budget resolutions, some spending bills adopted before the end of the fiscal year, pay-as-you-go-accounting, fundamental tax reform in 1986, cost-sharing for water projects that same year, a surplus as recently as 2001, and a federal debt that was less than $1 trillion dollars in 1981. Finally, there were some politicians who were willing to be leaders – statesmen that would buck their party or public opinion when it was in the best interests of the nation.
Then we see the dysfunction the Ghost of Christmas Present has in store. Automatic across-the-board spending cuts, tax hikes, spending bills unlikely to be done until the government is halfway through the fiscal year, a downgraded national bond rating, a larded-up disaster relief bill for Sandy that eviscerates cost-sharing. An unwillingness to cut defense spending. There is also a lack of leadership on the very real fiscal issues our nation is facing. A lack of leadership that has led to a fiscal commission, a super committee, and the fiscal cliff instead of making the real – and really difficult – decisions on what to do.
What the Ghost of Christmas future shows us is downright scary. An ineffective and inefficient tax code littered with special interest giveaways and breaks. An even more dysfunctional government. Public debt exceeding 100% of Gross Domestic Product. World markets that don’t believe the United States will handle its debt, increasing interest rates. Debt service interest payments in excess of $300 billion annually. A defense budget that is more about parochial interests than about spending smart. Exploding costs of entitlement programs as the demographics shift with the retirement of the baby boomers.
But like Scrooge learned, it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead, our nation’s leaders can come up with a plan (here’s ours) to get past this moment of uncertainty and dysfunction. They can adopt real cuts and revenue raisers that allow lawmakers to credibly steer away from the fiscal cliff. They can develop a plan that will trigger entitlement, tax, and spending reforms through a budget reconciliation-like process. And finally, our elected officials can show real leadership. Leadership that will no longer think of bipartisanship as a dirty word. Leadership that will throw out the partisan orthodoxies and ignore the entreaties from special interests that would prevent policymakers from doing what is in the nation’s best interest. Let’s make sure they hear what the taxpayers wish for – no tax dollars wasted.
During this holiday season, the staff at Taxpayers for Common Sense wishes you and yours much good cheer. It looks like Congress will be sticking around, and so will we. There won’t be a “Wastebasket” next week, but we’ll be back in your inbox in 2013, and will be out there fighting for taxpayers, common sense, and a government that works.
Thanks for your support this year!